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How Google is leveraging Android in the virtual reality race

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Google wants to make its Android mobile operating system the platform of choice for virtual and augmented reality.

Takeaway: Google is clearly playing to its mobile strengths. Its mobile OS is widely used, making it well positioned to approach the race via smartphones and their makers. Rivals Microsoft and Intel, on the other hand, are working to apply their PC strengths to VR by building powerful hardware platforms.

Here's how it's leveraging Android:

  • Smartphones: Daydream, Google's VR software is built into Android, and its headsets work by slipping a supported smartphone into it. This means that Google's VR platform can expand its reach as more and more Android phones are built with the computing power required for virtual reality. There are already four Daydream-ready smartphones, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will also add support this summer—a huge step given the popularity of the Galaxy S line.
  • Tango AR: Like with VR, Google is focusing its augmented reality efforts on smartphones with its Tango platform. It's adding a second Tango-supported smartphone later this year.
  • Standalone VR headset: At its annual developer conference, Google announced that it's working on standalone headsets that won't require a smartphone, cables or anything else. Again, Google is taking a platform approach by working with Qualcomm on the chip front, and HTC (maker of the hugely popular VR headset Vive) and Lenovo to manufacture the first devices later this year.

To catch up on everything announced on Google I/O Day 1, click here.